LINCOLN'S COOPER UNION ADDRESS.
New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune. New York: February 28, 1860.
Folio (545 x 427 mm). 8 pp. Text in 6 columns. Old folding creases, a few printer's flaws, small loss to bottom corner at fold; a bright, unopened copy.
NEW YORK PRINTING OF LINCOLN'S COOPER UNION ADDRESS, printed the following day and presumably the first printing or tied first printing. Scarce on the market; we find only one other copy having appeared at auction. One of the most important speeches of Lincoln's career, the address delivered before a crowd of some 1,500 at the Cooper Institute in New York on February 27, 1860 propelled a then relatively unknown Lincoln to the Republican nomination for the Presidency and ultimately into the White House. In a speech of over 7,000 words, Lincoln challenged the argument (put forth by his Republican rival Stephen Douglas) that the issue of slavery was a matter of popular sovereignty, demonstrating through painstaking research he himself had performed that of the original 39 signers of the Constitution, 21 of them believed it was in the Federal government's power to regulate slavery. He cast Republican opposition to slavery as a moderate position and the Southern position as radical and irrational zealousness. He ended his speech with a powerful moral appeal: "Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menace of destruction to the Government, nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might; and in this faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty, as we understand it."
The reaction of Tribune editor and anti-slavery advocate Horace Greeley, printed on page 4 of the present issue, captures the effect Lincoln's speech on his listeners: "The speech of Abraham Lincoln at the Cooper Institute last evening was one of the happiest and most convincing political arguments ever made in this City ... Mr. Lincoln is one of Nature's orators, using his rare powers solely and effectively to elucidate and to convince, though their inevitable effect is to delight and electrify as well ... The vast assemblage frequently rang with cheers and shouts of applause, which were prolonged and intensified at the close. No man ever before made such an impression on his first appeal to a New-York audience." Lincoln himself later acknowledge that it was this speech, along with the portrait of him taken by Matthew Brady earlier that day and used in campaign promotional material, that won him the presidency. (See Donald pp 237-241.)
The speech was reprinted as an Extra to the Tribune later the same day, followed a week later by a publication in pamphlet form.